DEAR MISS MANNERS: I recently returned from a wedding that was wonderful in all respects except one: The outside temperature was nearly 100 degrees and there was no air conditioning in the church, which was filled to capacity. All in attendance were suffering from the heat -- especially the men, who were dressed in suits.
What is a gentleman permitted to do in such circumstances? I was tempted to take off my jacket, undo my tie and roll up my sleeves, yet I felt that such an appearance was not appropriate for a wedding. On the other hand, it seemed that perspiring through my jacket also did not befit the occasion. In the end, I settled for only removing my jacket. Yet this alone did little to abate my perspiration. What would Miss Manners suggest I do in a similar situation?
GENTLE READER: Suffer.
It hurts Miss Manners to say this, you may be comforted to hear. Well, probably not. But taking off your jacket didn't help, either. And in a packed, 100-degree church, even removing your shirt would not have made you stop perspiring, although it might have helped to clear the church.
Marriage ceremonies do not last forever. (Neither do marriages, but that is another story.) If you were in dire straights, you could have slipped out and explained later that you were feeling faint. But the polite thing to do would be to sit there and melt, hoping for a cold drink at the reception.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: My 17-year-old daughter, Kaitlin, and three friends were quietly studying in the coffee shop of a large chain bookstore when Kaitlin began to cough. She was excusing herself to get a drink of water when a woman seated at the next table began loudly making an ugly scene, saying that Kaitlin had no right to be there since she was obviously ill and was exposing all of the other customers to her illness.
Kaitlin was extremely embarrassed. She walked over to the woman and, in a voice just loud enough to be heard by the other patrons, calmly said, "I appreciate your concern for my health and I'm sure these other customers also appreciate your concern for their health. However, there is no need to worry because I'm not sick, I just have allergies." Kaitlin then politely excused herself and went to the ladies room, where she burst into tears.
When she was able to regain her composure, she gathered her schoolbooks, excused herself to her friends, and left the bookstore with as much dignity as she could muster. She was quite shaken up and asked me how she should have handled the situation. I told her that I would ask Miss Manners, who would surely know.
GENTLE READER: Yes, but you have an expert closer at hand. Etiquette does not require accepting humiliation, and your daughter defended herself in a polite and dignified manner, of which you should be proud. The only lesson Miss Manners would have her learn is not to allow the rude to trifle with her emotions.